Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What does it mean to have faith?

So I read today the three account of the miracle where Jesus calms the storm and it raises some questions and curiosities in my brain. I tried to reason them out in my head, and nothing was making sense, so I'm here to write it out and hopefully He'll give me some answers this way.

So, there's three accounts of this story in the Bible. Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:37-41 & Luke 8:22-25. They all say that the disciples and Jesus decided to go across the lake in a boat. No biggie...we all make everyday decisions like this that seem to make the most sense in that moment of our lives. We decide to drive to the grocery store, or go for a walk, or take a trip. Everyday life kind of things.

So they're sailing along, no problems. I've been on a boat and it's peaceful! I love being in a boat on the water and just cruising along. It's so beautiful on the water, so relaxing. So Jesus laid down in the stern and fell asleep. He worked hard! He had to be exhausted! Constantly performing miracles, healing people, teaching people, being harassed by the pharisees and the other religious leaders. He was God, yes, but in a human body, and that human body had to get tired! So He took a nap.

So Jesus is snoozing and suddenly a big storm swoops down on the boat. The Bible calls it a "squall"which is defined in dictionaries as "a sudden strong wind or short violent storm, often accompanied by rain or snow". So it's not a massive system moving through the area, it's more of a very small storm pinpointed on their location. Hmmm...I've experienced these in my life, as many of us have! You know, when you're cruising along in life and all of a sudden everything goes to pot very quickly, and it seems like God is picking on you cuz of how bad everything is. And all around you others are still cruising through their lives just fine, it's just a "squall", right over YOUR boat of life. Ugh! I hate those!

So anyway, cruising along just fine, Jesus sleeping, short violent storm swoops down on them, and they're freaking out! I would be too in a literal version of this story, and I do often in the symbolic version of this story! The Bible itself says that "they were in great danger" (Luke 8:23). So they had good reason to be worried as the danger was very real.

They wake Jesus up in their panicked state and politely ask Him to do something about the storm, Him being the creator of the world and all. Right? No, and we wouldn't either. They were panicking! They freaked out on Him and accused Him of not caring about them! "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" it says in Luke's book. "Teacher, don't You care if we drown?" says Mark (4:38). And Matthew 8:25: "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!". I've cried out similar sentiments to God before. "Don't You care at all about what's happening to me?!?" and "Do You even SEE what's going on in my life? Do You CARE?" and "God, I'm DYING here! Help me!!!". Sound familiar? Have you cried out to God in dire situations before? I do it every time. That's what He's there for!

And Jesus' response? "You of little faith, why are you afraid?" Why were they afraid? "We're dying here" is probably what they wanted to scream back over the howl of the wind as a big wave comes up over the boat and smacks them in the face. Then He orders the wind to stop blowing and the waves to settle back into the sea. And they, of course, obey, because He's the creator of the world!

Here's where my questions come in. What does that mean? "Do you still have no faith?" (Mark) and "Where is your faith?" (John). Yeah, they had faith..that's why they went to Jesus in the first place! Isn't it? Or did they do like I would have done, tried to ride out the storm and let Jesus sleep. After all, they knew how hard He worked and how tired He must have been. Maybe they tried to get through the squall on their own? Maybe they had been bailing water out of the boat for an hour, trying to rescue themselves? I don't know, it doesn't tell us. But Jesus said they were not using their faith in the situation. So what should they have done differently? That's my question. How were they supposed to use their faith?

Does "having faith" mean sitting out the storm and letting it go by on it's own? That doesn't seem like the right answer to me! I mean, isn't that what they were doing? Jesus didn't wake up until they woke Him! So would Jesus have slept right through the boat capsizing? Or would He have stopped that from happening so they didn't all die?

Did He say they didn't have faith because of how they asked Him for help? Because they were freaking out? Maybe they should have asked politely when they woke Him? Would that have been having faith?

I'm a logical type of person and I like do-lists. So my logical brain is trying to find a very direct plan of action in this scenario. A "when this happens, do this" kind of thing. A "they did this - wrong; they should have done this - right" plan.

The only answer that makes sense to me is it's the how that was the problem. They (and we) probably should have gone to Jesus before they were to the panic point? Like, ok, the storm hit, things aren't going well, we've tried to ride it out but it's getting worse. We've tried to bail and rescue ourselves, but we're not keeping up. More water is coming in than we're bailing out. It's time for some Divine help guys! Let's go ask Jesus since He has told us He's the Son of God. He's healed people, thrown out demons from people, turned water into wine. He can probably handle this situation too. Hey, Jesus, could You help us out here? We've done what we can, and it's more than we can handle. Could You solve this problem, whether it's move the boat beyond the storm, stabilize it so we don't capsize or sink, or quiet the winds and waves. You know the best solution, we're trusting You to take care of it. Thanks Jesus!

I don't know. That's the answer I come up with. What do you think? What does "having faith"mean? What does it look like?

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